My name is Mellissa Recchia and I am twenty-three-years-old. I was first diagnosed with a soft-tissue cancerous tumor on September 3rd, 2009 at sixteen-years-old. I underwent two years of IV chemotherapy which equated to about fifty-four rounds in total. At eighteen-years-old, two weeks before I graduated from high school, I received my last dose of chemotherapy and was declared in remission. I was able to enjoy a year and a half of “normal” which included starting my freshman year of college. On December 17th, 2012 my routine scans showed that my cancer was once again back.
I was sent from my local Children’s Hospital to MD Anderson in Texas for better treatment. There my doctors came up with an oral chemotherapy that I would take once a day everyday. For two years that treatment kept me stable. Then on August 15, 2015 my routine MRI showed that my tumor had grown resistant to that chemo and had started to grow once again. I was sent back to MD Anderson to formulate a new plan. I am now on twice a day everyday oral chemotherapy that, for the moment, is working.
When I was first diagnosed at sixteen-years-old having cancer was a hard pill to swallow. So hard in fact that I denied that I was sick and only told my close friends and family what was going on. Cancer was not something that I wanted to talk about, that is until I attended Camp Mak-A-Dream. My family and friends have always said that I went to camp one person and camp back a totally different person in all the right ways.
I attended the young adult’s conference at Camp Mak-A-Dream June 9th-15th in Gold Creek Montana. I have been attending this camp for seven years. I started coming to Camp Mak-A-Dream when I was seventeen-years-old, just ten months after being diagnosed and starting treatment. To say that it changed my life is an understatement. Each and every year that I attend camp I fall in love with it a little more. At camp, we do all the things that one would usually think of when they hear summer camp – arts and crafts, horseback riding, swimming, high ropes course, rock wall, and so many more fun outdoor activities. Not to mention the people they bring in to teach workshops such as yoga, meditation, drum circles, look good feel better, and so many other guests who donate their time and resources to camp.
The first time I attended camp I was very nervous, in fact I wrote in my journal the first night that I wanted to go home. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make any friends and that I would not have fun. I was also worried that because of being on treatment it would limit what I was able to do. However, that is not the case at Camp Mak-A-Dream. They strive to create a camp environment where everyone can participate in anything. They will do whatever they need to do to ensure you have the best experience ever.
I think the first time that I realized that these people would be my family is when we hiked up the Butte, which is a camp tradition. Looking up at the mountain, I thought there was no way I could do this. Just as I was thinking that, my new friends came up to me and told me they would make sure I got to the top, and they did just that.
Camp is more than just camp to me; it’s my home. The people there are my family. It is the place where I feel loved, where I feel safe, and where I feel most welcome. Camp gives me a chance to be with other young adults that know and understand what I was/am going through. I am proud to call them some of my best friends. The people that I have met at this camp will always be a part of my life and they will always live in my heart. I would highly recommend every cancer patient to attend a camp of some sort for their age group. It changed my life for the better. Leaving home and your safety net can be scary but if you just take the leap and have faith you will never regret it. Get busy living.